New Year’s Eve traditions all over the world - from singing Auld Lang Syne in the UK to eating grapes in Spain

'You don't realise you're in the moment until it's a memory'. (Pic credit: Daniel Martino)'You don't realise you're in the moment until it's a memory'. (Pic credit: Daniel Martino)
'You don't realise you're in the moment until it's a memory'. (Pic credit: Daniel Martino)
New Year’s Eve is celebrated all over the world in a variety of ways.

Former primary school teacher, Laura Steele, who is one of the education resource experts at PlanBee, lists the various traditions, including some which are unusual.


Across the country as the clock strikes midnight on December 31, people would normally hold hands and sing Scottish poet Robert Burns’ 1788 song ‘Auld Lang Syne’ to welcome the new year.

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The title roughly translates to ‘for old times’ sake’ and it is a song about reunion and reconciliation; it’s a reflection of the past and a vow to move forward together.

Whilst the song originates in Scotland, it is sung all over the world on New Year’s Eve. In Scotland, ‘Hogmanay’ is the Scottish word for New Year’s Eve and it lasts until January 2, which is a public holiday in Scotland.

The word ‘Hogmanay’ is thought to be Viking, when the Norse invaders began by celebrating the winter solstice on December 21, resulting in wild parties at the end of the month. Modern celebrations include torch-lit parades, fire festivals, firework displays, and musical performances.

Another popular tradition in Scotland is the ‘first-footing’ which is when the first guest to enter a house in the new year must bring a gift. The gift can be anything from salt or coal to shortbread and whiskey. This is thought to bring luck to the owner of the house.


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In Spain, on each of the 12 strokes of the clock at midnight, a grape is eaten.

This is thought to bring good luck for the coming months.


Just before midnight in Denmark, people stand on chairs, ready to jump off them at midnight and ‘leap’ into January.


People in Switzerland drop a dollop of cream on the floor at midnight on New Year’s Eve to bring a prosperous new year.


On New Year’s Eve, the Greek hang an onion on their front door as a symbol of rebirth.

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On New Year’s Day, parents wake their children up by tapping them on the head with the onion.


People in Brazil dress in white clothes to symbolise their hopes for good luck and peace for the new year.

If they live near a beach, it is traditional to jump over seven waves - for each wave, they receive a wish.


Doughnuts are eaten on New Year’s Eve in Germany. The doughnuts, known as Pfannkuchens, are filled with jam or liquor.

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Some may contain mustard or other unsavoury fillings as a practical joke, so if you pick one of these, this is thought to be bad luck.


On the last day of the year, people in Columbia carry an empty suitcase around with them with the hope to travel in the next 12 months to come.


On New Year’s Day, Estonians attempt to eat either seven, nine or 12 times throughout the day.

These are all considered lucky numbers and it is believed that the more they eat, the more plentiful the food will be in the coming year.

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